Interviews: Owners, what do you ask prospective Sitters?

Hi there! My husband and I are very new to THS and this forum is very helpful. Really appreciate seeing your list of subjects to cover with potential sitters, hadn’t considered asking about smoking/non-smoker/vapor. Not that it is a deal breaker, just want to know in advance & make sure it is all outside, but wouldn’t have even thought to ask. And our kitties may not like the smell of smoke on their clothing … ?

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Thanks - I like this perspective but am not sure I agree with all of it.

If Sitters were solely interested in caring for pets and uninterested in traveling at all they would pet sit locally. There are plenty of animals everywhere that need looking after with no need to get on a plane or travel anywhere. Sitters are on this site because they enjoy BOTH pets AND travel and want to combine the two experiences. But everyone is different in how they prioritize the travel element vs. the pet care element. That is why some sitters understandably don’t want to care for difficult or time consuming animals while others have no issue with it. And it is why desirable locations get many applications vs. less desirable locations getting only a few. So the travel element is very real.

It is not a true volunteer assignment but an exchange. Our homes are not free to us - we do pay to maintain them. So Sitters are getting a ‘payment’ it is just in the form of lodging as part of their travels instead of cash. In exchange Sitters are providing a service to the HO in the form of pet care. And since Sitters are doing this because they love animals they are giving them love and receiving that emotional connection back from the pets - also an exchange.

As a HO I am opening my home to a sitter - our sacred space that we have spent much of our lives building while also entrusting the care of our very loved fur babies. It is an exchange and not free on either side. The HO provides (hopefully comfortable) lodging (which they continue to pay the expenses for) while the Sitter provides care for the pets.

As for the word interview, it is not solely applicable to employee - employer. A prospective student applying to a university will often be interviewed. They are certainly not an employee (in fact they would be paying tuition to attend!) but the university only has so many spots and want to ensure the student is the right fit. Many charity organizations will also interview prospective volunteers.

I don’t see this situation as any different. HO post dates where we will need a pet sitter. Potential sitters apply. If there is more than one applicant than of course all of them can’t be confirmed - hence the interviews to select the Sitter who would be the best fit based on both their travel desires, their ability to care and nurture our pets, and how likely we all are to get along and communicate well. And since HO know the location and the pets they are the ones to decide which sitter to confirm.

I have definitely met with Sitters who were fantastic during our discussions and their love for animals shone through. I am happy to host them as guests so that they have a pleasant experience and that joy can then be shared through their nurturing interaction and care of my pets. I have also met Sitters where their priority was the lodging and location as it suited their needs to be in a specific area at a certain time. This is fine as long as they can convince me that they will responsibly care for my pets. That is what I am trying to determine in the initial ‘chat’. And Sitters are evaluating me as well and if they don’t like me, the home, the pets, or the tasks required then they are free to walk away. No one is forcing either side. HO can misrepresent themselves and the pets but Sitters can also misrepresent themselves and their experiences and ability with animals. Hence the need for the evaluation prior to confirming a sit.

And yes of course all HO should have a plan B whether it is THS or a paid sitter or even when both HO are home (in the event of natural disasters). HO have their entire home and beloved animals at stake - we have more to lose if there is a truly unforeseen circumstance - or if we confirm an unreliable or unqualified sitter. A sitter who applies to a sit that turns out to be a poor experience can just walk away when its done. A HO can have far worse consequences if their animals are not properly cared for or the property is not kept up (or in extreme cases even damaged).

But it is fair for a HO to judge how quick-thinking and responsive a potential sitter would be in an emergency. For example if they became ill would they simply not communicate at all to the HO and let the animals suffer or would they send a text or call with the situation and request assistance. Or if a natural disaster required an evacuation is the sitter capable of getting the animals out to the pre-determined safe zone. Just as airlines confirm the passenger sitting in the exit row is capable of assisting in an emergency - they do not expect that passenger to save the entire plane but do need to confirm they can play their part. Hopefully that makes sense.

Thanks for your perspective, it was interesting and did get me thinking about the relationship between Sitter and HO. And who knows - maybe my feelings will change over time and more experience with the process.

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I can only speak from a personal point of view, but we don’t fit into the profile that you feel sitters must fall into, we’re all different.

Most of our sits so far have been local ones, over 80% of our sits are within a 2 hour drive of our home town, we’ve gone as far as 2 hours simply because there aren’t many sits nearby that come up on THS.

The one place we visit overseas is a location where our immediate family live, so overtime we will spend slightly more time overseas in that particular area as we build up our connections with HO’s and their pets, as we love to return to the same place, with pets that know us, and home owners that can rely on us. But ultimately our overseas place isn’t about travel, it’s about being closer to our family for a longer period, and as we love pet sitting, it’s the best way to do it.

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Yes of course everyone is an individual with their own reasons and motivations.

In either the case of the local sit it is still and exchange - you are signing up for the companionship of the animal more than travel. For the overseas sit you are signing up for the location (whether it is to visit family or to sightsee it is still travel) and you’re receiving the added benefit of the lodging that comes with the companionship of the animal. It is still an exchange.

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To me, that’s splitting hairs. We all basically take sits so we can experience something we couldn’t by staying at home. That can mean sightseeing, seeing friends and family, a change of scenery, a different home, etc.

If we just wanted to take care of pets, we could stay home and look after our own, volunteer at a shelter or offer paid pet sitting, for instance.

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Yes, thanks - that was my point. Both parties benefit.

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I definitely don’t like the surprise during the discussion of a guest but I would rather they be upfront about it then try to sneak them in. I think your idea of a box for guests is a good one but at the same time I don’t have a blanket rule about no guests at all. I’m open to a couple of friends or family stopping by for dinner, for example, but don’t want them to stay overnight. At the same time I might entertain one or two overnight guests for a night or two but would specify where they would need to sleep. And it would only be for a sitter who was otherwise perfect.

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@Felinelover Although you’ve received lots of responses your question has been discussed a lot in the past.
You can always do a search before posing a question. Here’s one thread which may help you:

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Exactly. I made two exceptions and they were two long-term sitters that I had complete trust in. And they weren’t just any people, but in one case it was the sister and in the other was the long-term partner.

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In the “house rules” section of my welcome guide the first thing I state is “please no smoking or drugs”. I usually bring it up as well in the conversation, but if the sitter plans on partaking, it’s really on them to bring it up and ask if it’s ok.

I have this in my welcome guide as well!

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I declined further communication with a prospective sitter when he asked which part of the DC area I live in and then replied “right answer” after I told him. I guess it’s a normal question since the DC metro area is rather large, but his response gave me pause. Was I silly?

I did alter my introduction page after that though to a more specific location.

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You should do what feels comfortable for you when it comes to choosing sitters.

From my POV as a sitter, I automatically skip every listing that doesn’t specify a neighborhood in any large metro area. And some other sitters have commented likewise. To me, such listings are a waste of time, since location is the No. 1 priority for many travelers / sitters. That’s especially relevant when someone is visiting and dealing with walks, feeding and possible medication times, and however long a pet can be reasonably left. Otherwise, there’s no way to tell whether a sitter is getting a reasonable exchange.

The more specific a listing, the easier it is for potential sitters to opt in or out, which saves hosts time as well.

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